“War on Workers” is not a Strong Argument in Support of the AA/US Merger

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ARTICLE: US Airways Flight Attendants Stand Up to Justice Department Over Merger

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The US Airways-American merger is the high profile, third consolidation (after DL/NW, UA/CO) and the Justice Department says that it will oppose it based on anti-trust laws. The announcement was joined by similar opposition from several state Attorneys General. Conversely, the two carriers and several unions have made it clear that they will defend the transaction vigorously.

There are a number of arguments posed to support the creation of the largest US carrier. AFA asserts that the DoJ is engaging in a “war on workers.” The union’s press release recalls the sacrifices which flight attendants and other workers have made to help US and AA through the hemorrhaging associated with the bankruptcy.

While there is a great deal of equity behind such an assertion, Justice’s focus is on the economics, a discipline based on hard numbers. The analyses proffered by the companies address the numbers of market concentration, city pairs, fares and competing on a global basis.

As appealing as the “war on workers” theme may be, the anti-trust laws deal with a different metric. Perhaps the statutes should be amended to incorporate other policies such as safety, service to small communities or labor justice, but the current laws do not include such soft factors. AFA, if it seeks to convince the Justice Department or later the federal courts to permit the merger, should change its arguments.

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